The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Modesta Tochi Alozie

Nationality: Nigerian
Year of entry: 2014

I am very passionate about all aspects of governance. Because governance shapes social relations and has a strong bearing on the wellbeing of citizens. However, in the context of Nigeria, a resource-rich nation, where the youths constitute more than half of the country’s population, I am particularly interested in understanding how resource governance shapes the lives of these large portions of Nigeria’s population.  Hence, my PhD research seeks to understand how resource governance shapes the lives of young people, and young men in particular, in the oil-producing Niger Delta region of Nigeria.  Based on young people’s accounts, my research shifts the focus away from characterising youths as criminals and blaming them solely for petro-violence and foregrounds the role of poor resource governance and cultural factors in shaping young people’s relationship with violence.
In some way, my current PhD research can be traced to some of my past works. For example, my M.Sc. dissertation at the University of Manchester sought to understand why Nigeria has the negative image of the world pollution capital despite having a good number of environmental legislation, at least for a developing country. The recommendations of my dissertation, which includes the possible role that non-state actors can play in driving environmentally responsible practices, spurred my passion to volunteer for Friends of the Earth Nigeria after my M.Sc. Before my M.Sc., I was also an intern with the Nigerian Agip Oil Company located in Obiafu-Obrikom community, Rivers State, Nigeria. During my time in both Agip and Friends of the Earth, I observed how oil exploration in the Niger Delta, shapes the lives of youths and male youths in particular, including the active role of oil companies in the production of local violence. My PhD researches in thus, informed by these past work experiences.

While I hope that ‘youth ‘and ‘governance’ will continue to be an important part of my research, I hope that my future research will transcend this interest, by investigating other areas such as the nexus between local notions of masculinity and petro-violence in the Niger Delta. I would also want my future work to explore how energy systems in other countries transform cultures and landscapes and shape the dynamics of local politics.

Research information
PhD title: The Political Ecology of Oil in Nigeria: Understanding Youth Violence through the Perspectives of Young People.

Youths, Oil, Violence.

Professor Vanesa Castan Broto (Primary supervisor). Julian Walker (ancillary supervisor).

The Niger Delta is an oil-producing region in Southern Nigeria. It is rich in biodiversity and abundance of petroleum resource. Increased demand for Nigeria’s low sulphur oil shortly after oil was discovered in the Niger Delta in 1956 transformed Nigeria, previously an agrarian economy, into the largest oil producer in the continent of Africa. With the commercialisation of oil in 1958, the federal government introduced new institutional mechanisms that set the stage for Nigeria’s fiscal centralism. These include a nationalised oil company (NNPC) established in 1971 and the distributable pool account introduced in 1966, which subsequently became the federation account in 1979.  

With a daily production of 2.4 million barrels of oil per day, the oil and gas sector fostered Nigeria’s economic growth, contributing about 70% of government revenue, 90% of export earnings, and 10% of the country’s GDP as of 2017. But while the federal government and the oil companies accumulated enormous petro-wealth from oil exploration, violence became a part of everyday life in the Nigeria Delta.

In addition to experiences of bodily harm, political exclusion and environmental harm, discontent over oil revenue distribution pattern has led to the emergence of violent groups in which youths, and male youths, in particular, are the main actors. These violent groups, known locally as ‘militants’, are resisting the oil companies, local leaders, and the federal government who they blame for their experiences of violence. But the media and official discourses characterise these violent groups as criminals and problematic, and blame them for violence. So far, there has been little systematic effort to give these youths a voice in discussions about violence in the Niger Delta. 

Using a political ecology framework which draws from Bourdieu’s thinking tools-habitus, field and capital-alongside Connell’s hegemonic masculinity, this thesis seeks to understand petro-violence from the perspective of young people. This means an analysis that prioritises how young people perceive, explain and justify their relationship with violence. The arguments in this thesis resulted mainly from 5 events of focus groups and in-depth interview with 84 youths mainly from two ethnic groups-Ijaw and Ogoni-who have experienced oil-related violence directly or indirectly. It also includes in-depth interviews with forty-two institutional representatives with relevant knowledge about youth violence in the Niger Delta. Experiences of violence shared by the male youths is further analysed using Bourdieu-informed discourse analysis which highlights how local gender structure, shapes young men’s relationship with violence.  
The findings highlight the role of the political ecology of oil as well as institutional and social factors in shaping young people’s experiences of violence. Based on these findings, this thesis argues for a more nuanced understanding of youth violence which locates young people’s actions within the broader social structures that contours their lives.
Research Interest
The political ecology of natural resources

Gender and development
Understanding how the energy system transforms cultures, economies, and politics.

Publications and other works
I enjoy good company and I love fashion. Prior to my academic life, I used to be a model. I participated in Miss Earth Nigeria in 2009 and represented Nigeria in Miss Earth World in the Philippines the same year. Miss Earth World is the third biggest pageant in the world after Miss World and Miss Universe. Thus, I bring the totality of my being which includes my past modelling life to my current academic life. I enjoy reading the works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Naomi Wolf, who consistently asks why can’t a smart woman love fashion?

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/modesta-alozie-b4379b37/